Friday, October 7th, 2016 (Michael Slezak). Environmentalists call for moratorium on new licences as concerns grow about BP’s plans to drill for oil in Bight
Another company has been given a permit to explore for oil in a marine reserve in the Great Australian Bight, sparking calls from environmentalists for a moratorium on new licences.
Karoon Gas Australia announced to the Australian Stock Exchange on Thursday that it had been approved to explore for oil in “17,793 square kilometres of Australia’s most active and prospective frontier oil exploration province”.
“The Ceduna sub-basin hosts a massive Cretaceous delta system, which Karoon believes has the potential to be a globally significant hydrocarbon province with world-class potential,” the company said.
It said that if oil was found by BP and others, who are closer to drilling in the Bight, that would increase Karoon’s chance of success too.
“The industry, including BP, Statoil and Chevron, has committed approximately A$1 billion to drilling nine exploration wells in the surrounding permits during the next 24 months,” Karoon said in the statement.
Karoon’s current exploration plans involve seismic surveys, to build a 3D image of the basin below the marine reserve.
Seismic testing involves using high-powered airgun arrays to fire blasts of air into the ocean for weeks or months. That process can harm fish and other marine animals and interfere with whales’ communication (Ed Sibylline : it kills, due to acoustic cavitation on biological liquids and membranes).
The Western Eyre Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which Karoon plans to explore, is protected by the federal government because it is considered an important foraging area for threatened animals including blue whales and the Australian sea lion, as well as sperm whales. It is also a seasonal calving habitat for southern right whales.
When the previous federal Labor government set up the network of reserves, it specifically allowed for oil exploration in those marine parks in the Great Australian Bight.
The company said in its announcement: “Karoon recognises the GAB [Great Australian Bight] is a pristine wilderness and an iconic Australian coastline with significant environmental and commercial fishing sensitivities.
“The eastern portion of the permit includes a commonwealth marine reserve running through it. The marine reserve area doesn’t prohibit petroleum exploration, however these areas are subject to an even higher level of environmental scrutiny and require assessment.
“Karoon takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and has a history of upholding high standards with respect to meeting its regulatory and social obligations with respect to these matters.”
The move comes amid growing concerns of BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. On Wednesday last week, the Australian regulator found, for a third time, that BP’s environmental plan wasn’t satisfactory, asking for more information.
“It’s outrageous the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator is issuing more exploration permits in the Great Australian Bight considering the massive opposition to BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Bight,” said the Wilderness Society’s South Australian director, Peter Owen.
“The Australian government must step in and stop this dangerous fiasco, especially when the Australian Senate is still conducting an inquiry into oil and gas exploration in the Bight.
“BP has already demonstrated it can’t get an approval to drill from Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulator, NOPSEMA.
“Karoon will just be wasting its shareholders money if it tries likewise.”
Ed Sibylline : more information